Historic Vehicles Draw Crowds To A Historic Museum

Images: Deepanjan Sarkar

A first for eastern India, perhaps even India, Classic Drivers Club (CDC) joined hand with a museum to hold the season’s first historic vehicle exhibition on Sunday, 14th January 2024.

The Wolseley 6/90 gracefully drives into Alipore Jail

The historic institution of the Alipore (Jail) Museum which functioned as a jail from 1906 till as recently as 2019, was made by the British to house Indian political prisoners. Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Chittaranjan Das and Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy were some of the notable freedom fighter prisoners incarcerated in the former jail during its 116-year-old history.

The Ford 10 Tourer stands in striking contrast against the backdrop of weathered brick walls

CDC thought of the idea to hold an exhibition in a historic landmark and approached the Museum authorities, who readily accepted the idea. The intention was simple: to share a little bit of the magic that historic vehicles bring, with the public, in a setting rife with history.

As the day progressed, a steady influx of people began to stream in

Today, the unique museum is a tribute to freedom fighters and their role towards the independence of the nation.

The central stage adorned with an array of resplendent parked cars

72 historic cars and 24 historic motorcycles were invited for the exhibition. A cool winter morning greeted participants and their vehicles, as they rolled into the museum and took their parking spots in the two piazzas of the museum.

Yezdi, James, BSA against the mighty Mercury

Cars ranged from a 1913 Stoewer C1, in the same family since new to a rare 1930 Auburn 6-85, two Rolls-Royce 25/30, one example bodied by the coachbuilder Thrupp & Maberly and the other by venerated coachbuilders, Hooper. A grand 1928 Studebaker President 8 State Limousine, again in the same family since new, stood proudly amongst the other cars.

CDC Shamman Awardee

A brace of Austin 7s looked cute parked neatly together with larger Austins, Chevrolets, Hudsons, Adlers, Erskines, Wolseleys, Triumphs, MG TCs, Buicks, Plymouths, classic Mercedes-Benzs, pre-war Rovers, a Mercury, and Fords. A 1938 Plymouth Special Deluxe caught the attention of the media, as it was originally owned by star Bengali composer and singer—Hemanta Mukhopadhay. A 1930s Ford 10 tourer garnered similar attention, as it was once used by Bengali matinee idol, Uttam Kumar in one of the movies he starred in.

CDC Shamman Awardee

The second piazza included an entire line-up of Fiats and Premiers, ranging from a single-family-owned 1954 Millecento to a Premier President and every generation of Fiat 1100s in between. Two Hindustan Ambassador Mk1s represented motoring for the masses. Willys Jeeps and modern classics were part of the exhibits too. A bright red Mazda Miata drew plenty of attention, as did a Standard 10 and a pint-sized Hillman Super Imp. Mercedes-Benz W123 and W124 models were some of the youngtimers along with the Indian version of a Vauxhall Victor FE, the Hindustan Contessa.

CDC Shamman Awardee

A Steyr-Puch Haflinger was surrounded by curious children. Some notable motorcycles included an early Panther Sloper, early Royal Enfields, BSAs, Triumphs, Nortons, Lambrettas and Vespas. Jawas were there too along with a Rajdoot GTS 150 (the Bobby). A fantastic NSU was displayed too.

STOP, look at the lovely red Austin 7 Tourer, Hillman Super Imp, Morris Oxford Covertible, GO with the green Austin 7 Ruby

As visitors flocked to the exhibit, many were captivated by the stunning display of historic vehicles in a historic landmark, and they immediately took to capturing videos and selfies.

But this event was not just about a display of historic vehicles. Children were encouraged to take part in a creative writing competition on their experience in the museum. A group of enthusiastic artists were invited to the museum and enthralled vehicle owners with masterful sketches, acrylic paintings, and watercolours of the exhibits.

Plymouth, Buick, Wolseley and Adler...an artist's impression

Perhaps the most unique addition at the event was a felicitation ceremony with a difference—CDC Shamman. The Bengali word ‘Shamman’ translates to ‘respect’. In this ceremony, it was not the historic vehicle owners or well-known restorers and collectors that were acknowledged—instead, CDC chose to pay tribute to three freelance automotive craftsmen in different fields.

Ford Model A, alive on canvas

A chrome plater and a mechanic, who have contributed significantly to the upkeep of a large number of vehicles in Kolkata were recognised for their contribution. A lifetime recognition award was presented to a master upholster who is now retired and had upholstered hundreds of cars during his four decades of service to the motoring community.

A fleet of Fiats flanked by Datsun 1600, Standard 10, Haflinger, a couple of HM Ambassadors, Mercedes W124, Mazda Miata, Morris Oxford, HM Contessa, Toyota FJ40, a couple of Willys, Mercedes W123 & Jaguar SS

By the time the event drew to a close at 4 PM, the footfall was gladdening. Ticket sales to the museum that day numbered close to 6,000 visitors and the display vehicles found it hard to negotiate the throng of visitors that had lined the driveway of the museum!

Our little enthusiast pens her experience of the event

The Vintage and Classic Car & Bike Show by Classic Drivers Club and the Alipore Museum was a gala for the townspeople.

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It has created a new mould for historic vehicle events in India and it is hoped that this event will be institutionalised in the future.

-With inputs from Prithvi Nath Tagore

Ritabrata Mukherjee

Ritabrata Mukherjee

Pilot, Mechanical Engineer, Tech enthusiast, Vintage/Classic car lover, DIY enthusiast, and a Dog lover. Passionate about flying, driving, and all things mechanical. 🛩️🚗🔧🐶


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